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American contractor shot dead in Saudi Arabia

Unidentified gunmen shot dead an American in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy said.  It was the second attack on a foreigner this week.
Saudi police and neighbors of the Riyadh neighborhood stand outside the building where an American was killed Tuesday.
Saudi police and neighbors of the Riyadh neighborhood stand outside the building where an American was killed Tuesday.AP
/ Source: news services

An American who worked for a U.S. defense contractor was shot and killed Tuesday in the Saudi capital, the second deadly shooting of a Westerner in the kingdom in three days.

An unknown assailant killed the man in his home, said a spokesman for Vinnell Corp., based in Fairfax, Va. “He was found by another employee at his apartment and taken to a hospital, but did not survive,” said the spokesman, Jay McCaffrey.

The victim was identified as Robert C. Jacobs, 62, of Murphysboro, Ill., a seven-year employee of Vinnell, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp., said Northrop spokeswoman Janis Lamar.

Seven Vinnell employees were among the 35 people, including nine suicide bombers, who died last year in an attack on a Riyadh foreigners’ housing compound.

Vinnell, which has several dozen Americans in the kingdom training Saudi security forces, maintains a secure residential compound for its employees, but the victim chose not to live there, McCaffrey said.

Saudis investigating
The official Saudi news agency said police were investigating the death. Saudi security officials declined immediate comment.

“I am shocked,” said Bandar Al-Ajmi, 29, a Saudi who lived around the corner from the victim. “He was our neighbor, and neither God nor the Prophet (Muhammad) would accept that something like this would happen.”

An orange police bus blocked the street leading to the apartment in a villa in the Khaleej neighborhood of eastern Riyadh.

Besides training security forces, Vinnell Corp also provides other services ranging from construction to supply and transportation work. Last year, it was awarded a $48 million contract to train the new Iraqi army.

Envoy denounces slaying
Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan called the murder “a vicious crime perpetrated by cowards who serve no cause but hatred,” and promised that those responsible will be brought to justice.

“The terrorists that are responsible for such inhuman acts are trying to undermine the Saudi state, destabilize our economy and terrorize our friends who have come to live, work and invest in the Kingdom,” Prince Bandar said in a statement.

“We are at war with these terrorists. There is no chance that they will succeed because the collective will of the Saudi people rejects their goals,” the prince said.

Series of assaults
Islamic militants have carried out a series of attacks on Westerners, government targets and economic interests in the kingdom during the past 13 months. The government has blamed the attacks on people inspired by, or belonging to, the al-Qaida terrorist network led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

“Unfortunately this is a trend we’re going to see more of. This is a matter of taking a target of opportunity, which takes no preparation for them to do,” said a Saudi official, declining to be identified.

“This is a clear trend where al-Qaida or sympathizers see Western targets as fair, open game in the kingdom and are trying to create an economic exodus from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

On Monday, a statement purportedly from al-Qaida militants in Saudi Arabia warned of new attacks on U.S. and Western targets, particularly airlines, as a Saudi diplomat said the militant group was behind an attack that killed a BBC cameraman.

Cameraman Simon Cumbers, 36, was shot dead Sunday and BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, 42, was critically wounded in a Riyadh area known as a militant stronghold.

Tuesday’s attack, the fifth in five weeks on Westerners in the kingdom that is battling al-Qaida militants, heightened security fears among the tens of thousands of expatriates in the world’s largest oil exporter.

The British Foreign Office had earlier advised Britons against all nonessential travel to Saudi Arabia. The United States has gone further, urging all of its 35,000 citizens in Saudi Arabia to leave.

Other recent attacks
There has been an upsurge of violence in the kingdom despite a high-profile anti-terror campaign that the government began last year following attacks on residential compounds.

A 25-hour shooting rampage and hostage-taking that began May 29 killed 22 people, most of them foreigners, in the eastern Saudi oil hub of Khobar. Saudi security forces captured one of the four attackers in that assault and are still looking for the other three.

On May 22, a German chef was shot and killed outside a bank in Riyadh. The assailants remain at large.

On May 1, a terrorist attack targeted the offices of an American energy company in the western city of Yanbu, killing six Westerners and a Saudi.